Remembering those who went to war
by Sandy Lindsay

November 11, 2015



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O' Canada

(L-R) MP Larry Miller, MPP Bill Walker, Peggy Ruff (Lt.-Col. Ruff's grandmother), Naomi Ruff (Lt.-Col Ruff's daughter), Lt.-Col. Alex Ruff and wife, Erica Lobdell

It seems to be, that the more distant the wars of memory become, the more people seem to be remembering and honouring those Canadians who served in so many of those battles.

From World Wars I and II to the Korean War and today's Afghanistan war, Canada has stepped up to help those peoples in countries who do not have the benefit of a democracy enjoyed by other countries, including our own.

Remembrance Day, November 11th, is often thought of as remembering those young men who went to war in the 'Great War', World War I and World War II but, as time marches on, so too do those young men and women who go into service in the name of freedom and democracy.

In the Korean War from 1950 - 1953, Canadians fought against the tyranny of communism with almost 30,000 Canadians fighting with United Nations troops.  Of those, more than 500 died in the conflict and troops remained after the war for three years as military observers.

Today, Canada has fought one of the longest wars in its history, in Afghanistan, lasting more than 12 years with over 40,000 troops participating.

But, as the soldiers of 'yesteryear' become older and fewer, are the generations of today forgetting ... or are they remembering and honouring?  It appears that it is the latter.

Everywhere, leading up to Remembrance Day, there is evidence that young people in schools today and their young parents, are taking to heart the courage of grandparents and great-grandparents who marched off to fight for what they believed in.

It is 50 years ago this month that the poppy began to be an emblem of veterans and, this year in 2015, according to statistics, more than 21 million poppies were purchased through donations - two million more than last year with donations higher than they have ever been.

Today, November 10th, at Chesley District Community School (CDCS), a moving Remembrance ceremony was held and, in an auditorium filled with young students, you could literally hear a "pin drop".

Touching poems, such as "We Died for You" (by Herb Peppard), were read by young students and special guest, Holland Survivor John Verdonk, told in detail his experience of growing up in a Holland overtaken by the enemy and of the Dutch people who lived, and died, in starvation.

He told the young students about the horrors of war and having to survive by moving into an underground bunker to escape the bombs, a father who disappeared at times as part of the 'underground' and how to survive, the people ate tulip bulbs. 

School band plays 'God Save the Queen'

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Then, he told of the day the Canadians arrived and liberated his city and Holland.  "We will never forget," he said, "what the Canadians did for us. They brought freedom."

John Verdonk and pictures of war

Today, Verdonk lives on a farm in Bruce County just east of Tara where he operates a beef cow and calf operation and where he remains a faithful member of the Tara Royal Canadian Legion going in to local schools to share his memories.

The second speaker brought the Canadian military participation into today's realm.  Lieutenant-Colonel Alex Ruff, who grew up in Tara and who also attended Chelsey school, brought to the students Canada's role in the world today.

A graduate of Royal Military College, he was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan, was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross and was the Chief of Staff Operations for the Canadian Contribution Training Mission-Afghanistan, among other positions.

"Canada's military believes in 'Service above Self'," Ruff told the students and encouraged them to follow that motto in life.

Today, November 11th, is a day to remember and to honour those generations of yesterday's Veterans ... and to think about those young people who go into military service today with high ideals of what democracy and freedom stand for and who will become the veterans that future generations will hopefully remember and honour.

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Friday, November 13, 2015